Ubisoft Sues Google, Apple Over Game It Alleges Is Similar to Theirs

Ubisoft has filed a lawsuit against Google and Apple. The accusation is that Google is offering access to a game Ubisoft says is similar to their game.

In the US, the copyright industry already enjoys a system that is overwhelmingly tilted in their favour. Essentially, in many cases, industry hired copyright trolls enjoy a system where it is guilt upon accusations, no questions asked. This is largely thanks to the notice-and-takedown system powered by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The system is responsible for widespread fraud and abuse that has resulted in extortion and outright censorship that goes well beyond simple enforcement of copyright.

Still, it is a system that the lobbyists not only maintain, but are actively expanding so that the system can be even more open to fraud and abuse. Whether it is attempting to institute a system where something can be used for infringement or something can be used for something else that could theoretically be used for infringement. Nothing is really beyond the pail for the copyright industry.

Of course, think back to all those cases of copyright infringement. What did they all revolve around? A vast majority revolved around an accuser supposedly trying to stop infringement of their intellectual property. So, things like a song or a video gets taken down all the time or whole websites are taken offline because it can be used to infringe on their specific work. Sometimes, the complaint is made out fraudulently and the complaining party never actually owned the rights to the work in the first place. Still, a complaint typically revolves around something they allegedly own the rights to as a basis for action.

In this latest case, that isn’t actually the basis for a copyright complaint. Ubisoft has filed a lawsuit against Google for refusing to take down a game. The game in question is called Area F2. Ubisoft didn’t actually make the game, though. The game in question was made by Ejoy which is owned by Alibaba. Ubisoft says that they sent DMCA takedown notices on the game, but Google didn’t honour those demands. Ubisoft contends that the game is like their game, “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege”. From Yahoo! News:

“Area F2 is a “near carbon copy” of Rainbow Six: Siege, and that can’t be “seriously be disputed,” Ubisoft said in a complaint filed Friday in a federal court in Los Angeles. “R6S is among the most popular competitive multiplayer games in the world, and is among Ubisoft’s most valuable intellectual properties.”

Rainbow Six: Siege has 55 million registered players around the world, with more than 3 million players everyday, according to the lawsuit.

“Ubisoft’s competitors are constantly looking for ways to piggyback on R6S’s popularity and to capture the attention, and money, of R6S players,” Ubisoft said in the lawsuit. “Virtually every aspect of AF2 is copied from R6S, from the operator selection screen to the final scoring screen, and everything in between.”

Ubisoft said that Apple and Google have “refused” to take the game off their respective online stores even after being notified about the infringement.

Google and Apple’s role in all of this is just allowing the developer to sell the game in their store. They didn’t actually make the game in the first place. So, it’s actually quite odd why Ubisoft opted to target the online stores in the first place. Generally speaking, if there is a legitimate complaint that a game is too similar to their own, it would make much more logical sense to file a lawsuit against the developer of the game. A court could theoretically order the game company to take the game down from the various stores it is sold in. For the most part, Google and Apple are mere by-standers in such a dispute.

Now, there is the other angle to all of this: is Area F2 really a “carbon copy” of Rainbow Six: Siege? Well, looking at the platforms they run on, Area F2 is a mobile game that runs on the Android Operating System. Meanwhile, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Siege is a game that is run on the Playstation 4/5, Microsoft Windows, and the XBox One. In short it is a console/PC game. So, two completely different platforms already.

Of course, what is in dispute is the gameplay. Already, there are comparison video’s on YouTube between the two games. Here’s one:

(Direct YouTube link)

On first blush, it’s possible to say that Ubisoft has a point that the games are very similar. The phrase “carbon copy” might be a stretch already, but if you don’t know your game history, you might be forgiven into thinking that Area F2 is a pretty close copy. Fortunately, we actually have a fairly good grasp of gaming history (by no means perfect, but thanks to our long history of reviewing video games, we can make some good points.

Now, setting yourself up for an online match is fairly standard fare for online multiplayer games. Depending on the game, you can set rules, limitations, what your characters are, and what kinds of advantages and disadvantages you want to have before the start. We can see this in games like Fortnite and many others out there today. So, a system to set yourself up is nothing really all that new.

Another feature both games have is the ability to use remote control vehicles with camera feedback. This kind of mechanic is something I’ve personally seen while playing Perfect Dark. If you want a video of this in action, you can see this (about 1:12 into the video):

(Direct link)

So, so far, nothing particularly novel about both of these games so far. Both games feature leaning or peaking which is something that is present in the game Outlast not to mention many other games that have been made before now.

Another concept is diffusing bombs which is something we’ve seen in games like Goldeneye 007 and plenty of other first person shooter games.

Both games feature destructible walls which is something we’ve seen while playing Half-Life 2. So, again, nothing novel by 2015.

Another aspect that the games have is the slow motion kill cam where you fall over dead after getting killed in slow motion. This is nothing new or novel because we’ve seen this while playing the game Max Payne:

(Direct YouTube link)

Both games also feature the ability to set up an area to protect the home base. This is also something we’ve seen in the Half-Life 2 series when we set up the turrets to guard against enemies in an area. Again, nothing novel or new.

Then there is the ability to buy things within the game. Again, by no means is there anything new here. We’ve seen this mechanic dating clear back to the original Dragon Warrior game for the NES. Loot boxes are by no means novel by this stage either.

You can aim your weapon down iron sights which we’ve seen in the Medal of Honour series. We’ve also seen this in the Call of Duty series.

You can hit enemies with the butt of your weapon which is a feature we’ve seen in Goldeneye 007 with the sniper rifle.

There are probably plenty of other features that are found in plenty of other games we haven’t already mentioned. Still, it raises a perfectly valid question: what specifically is in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege that is both novel and copied over to Area F2 to begin with? Honestly, we really struggle to find anything let alone call this one a “carbon copy”.

The best argument that we can think of that says that, yes, it is a copy is a general look and feel. Honestly, this argument doesn’t really hold much weight given the existence of the Counterstrike series:

(Direct YouTube link)

In fact, it’s very easy to see it being possible that Area F2 was able to obtain inspiration from plenty of other games and produce a game that wound up the way it is.

At the end of the day, neither game is necessarily particularly new or novel by any means that we can tell.

So, on both angles of this story, it’s really hard to understand Ubisoft’s position here. What Google or Apple has to do with the dispute is murky at best. If you could claim a game is similar to your own and have the power to take down the game, this is a loop hole in the law you could drive a Mac truck through. Just imagine a developer making a hastily put together game and claiming that any game on the store that employs hit points is infringing. What about making a first person shooter with pistols and saying any other game that features pistols is infringing. What about making a racing game and saying any game that has cars with spoilers on them is infringing? Where do you draw the line here?

On the other side, we are struggling to find anything that is particularly novel about either game in the first place. You’d think that there would be some kind of novel concept or feature that would make the case that one game is copying the other, but we aren’t seeing it. So, it makes for a difficult case that there is copying going on because there are plenty of common concepts shared among many other games. With a lack of a specific argument that we are seeing, we can’t honestly figure out where Ubisoft is coming from here.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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